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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  August 3, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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grand jury that has issued subpoenas. we will have the latest on the criminal probe and where it may be leading. the money trail. financial records related to the president under scrutiny as mueller's team looks into potential crimes that may be unrelated to the 2016 campaign. stand by for the in depth reporting. the manafort connection. we are also learning more about the investigation of the president's former campaign chairman, russia contacts and allegations of collusion. might intercepted conversations make the feds more suspicious. and scolding allies. new revelations about the tense phone calls with mexican and australian leaders detailed. mr. trump admitting that he doesn't expect one of his top campaign promises to come true. we want to welcome viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the situation room.
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this is cnn breaking news. >> we are following breaking news on the special council's trump/russia investigation. cnn has confirmed that robert mueller has empanelled a grand jury and issued subpoenas in connection with the meeting with a russian lawyer and others last year. this as cnn has learned that mueller's team is exploring potential financial ties of the president and the associates to russia looking into possible crimes including some that may be unconnected to the presidential election. sources say investigators have reviewed financial records related to the president as well as the trump organization, trump family members and campaign associates. we are also learning more about the investigation of former trump campaign chairman paul manafort. u.s. officials tell cnn that investigators became more suspicious when they found intercepted communications of
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suspected russian operatives. we are told the russians were discussing efforts to work with manafort to coordinate information that could hurt hillary clinton hfs campaign. the "washington post" obtaining transcripts of the president's very tense phone calls with the leaders of mexico and australia soon after his inauguration. he asked the mexican president to stop publicly refusing to pay for the wall even though mr. trump doesn't expect mexico to pay. i have director leon panetta. first let's talk to our cnn justice correspondent pamela brown. what are you learning about this new grand jury in the russia investigation? >> we have learned special council has issued grand jury subpoenas related to the donald trump jr. meeting in trump tower. this is according to a person
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familiar with the matter and subpoenas seek both documents and testimony for people involved in that meeting. just to remind our viewers people involved in the meeting include at least eight people we know of. don jr., jared kushner. the subpoena shows special council probe is beginning to enter a new phase. of course, the probe was convened in may and so now robert mueller has empanelled a grand jury. we have initially reported we recently reported there was a grand jury in northern virginia before the special council. this does tell us that mule mmu doing things by the book and that he wants to pull records and ask for testimony. >> jeffrey toobin, what does
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this move mean? >> it means the investigation is proceeding as a serious major criminal investigation. this is how prosecutors proceed. they need to use grand juries to get information whether through testimony, sworn testimony before the grand jurors or documents subpoenaed from banks, from telephone companies, from individuals. and then, of course, grand juries can return indictments. there is, of course, no guarantee that this grand jury will return indictment but there is no question that there will be no indictments without a grand jury. the fact that there is a grand jury means that this is a serious investigation that is proceeding in the normal fashion. >> the white house special council issued a statement on the report of a new grand jury being empanelled. let me read a little bit of that statement. grand jury matters are typically
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secret. the white house favors anything that accelerations. said three times the president is not under investigation. we have no reason to believe that has changed. what does this response tell you? >> it suggests that ty cobb may never have met his client. the first thing that donald trump says about this investigation is that it is phony and fake and that it's not real. and ty cobb is reacting as if this were a normal white house because that is the traditional response. that's what the clinton white house did during white water investigation. that's what the reagan white house did during iran contra investigation. certainly the president has never made any sort of
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indication that there is a cooperative attitude in the white house. >> if the president were to fire robert mueller how would that impact this grand jury? >> it's not donald trump who can fire director mueller. he has to get someone in the justice department to do it presumably he would ask the deputy attorney general who is in charge of the investigation. but if someone were to fire director mueller it's unclear to me what would happen because prosecutors run grand jurors. grand jury can't operate on their own. if the prosecutor is gone unless he were replaced the grand jury presumably would cease to exist. >> thank you for your analysis.
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pamela is still with us as we dig deeper into the special council's investigation and how the feds are following the money. evan perez is joining us with more. pame pamela, tell us what else you are learning. >> we are learning about who has been the focus of the investigation. we learned that investigators became suspicious last year when they turned up intercepted communications that u.s. intelligence agencies collected among suspected russian operatives discussing efforts to work with paul manafort who served as campaign chairman for three months. they were discussing in these intercepted communications the information that could damage hillary clinton's election prospects. the u.s. officials say the suspected operatives relayed what they claimed to be conversations with paul manafort encouraging help from the russians. we should point out that they could have been exaggerating or
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lying and his spokesperson also says there is no collusion with the russians. the focus for investigators is whether manafort was involved in money laundering or tax violations in his business dealings and he has been drawn to a related investigation of son-in-law's real estate business dealings. he has not been accused of wrong doing. >> tell us how investigators are gathering sensitive financial information involving finances of the president. >> sources tell us that the fbi team doing this investigation has gathered financial records related to the trump organization as well as donald trump himself and those of his family members including donald trump jr. and those campaign associates that we have heard so much about. they come through the list of special companies and buyers of trump branded real estate companies and scrutinize the roster of tenants. going back to more than a dozen years and looked at the back
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grounds of russian business associates connected to trump surrounding the 2013 ms. universe pageant. we could not determine whether this review included tax returns. >> how is special council robert mueller setting up? >> since he was appointed he has been gathering a team of more than three dozen attorneys, investigators and other staff in a nondescript office. officials describe it as a small u.s. attorney's office with fbi agents and prosecutors assigned to separate groups looking into various aspects. these include groups focussed on russian collusion and obstruction of justice as well as investigations focussed on paul manafort and national security adviser michael flynn. according to u.s. official briefed on this investigation some of the investigators have been pulled from field offices across the country to join the mueller team in washington.
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others left high paying jobs at law firms. many have back grounds in investigating fraud and financial crimes. all told about 16 attorneys are part of this probe now. >> interesting. very interesting also that the focus seems at least in part to be on finances. so our investigators still looking into the possibility of collusion and obstruction of justice? >> very much so. the investigators and the attorneys are split up into groups. among those groups is one that is focussed on the question of obstruction and one that is focussed on whether or not there was illegal coordination with the russian spy services. that is very much the question that they want to answer. what you can do by focussing on the financial crimes, possible financial crimes and financial aspects of the case. you can use it as leverage to possibly get people to cooperate and tell you more whether or not there was illegal coordination. >> what do we know about other possible targets of this russia
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probe? >> we know in addition to paul manafort who is former campaign chairman they have been focussed on michael flynn who is a former national security adviser. carter page who the president had named as a national security adviser is the one that first drew the attention of investigators because they had a secret surveillance warrant for him as far back as two years. that is much earlier than previously reported. people said it hapbenn happenedt year. that is what first drew the attention of the investigators. >> are you getting more white house reaction? >> i spoke to the president's attorney today and he basically said that the special council has not reached out to him or anyone else on the president's outside council related to any financial documents or anything specific to this probe. he said he basically said anything outside what the original mission was in terms of russia collusion is something
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they would object to. >> excellent reporting. thanks so much. excellent reporting from cnn. let's get reaction to all of the breaking news from the former defense secretary, former cia director. thanks for joining us. >> nice to be with you, wolf. >> lots to discuss. cnn has confirmed that the special council has issued subpoenas related to the donald trump jr. meeting over trump tower in new york city last summer. this according to a person familiar with the matter. the subpoena seeks both documents and testimony from people involved in the meeting. what does that move mean? >> well, you know, i wouldn't expect any less from bob mueller as special council. the order that created bob mueller basically said that he has the authority to investigate any and all matters that
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directly result from the investigation that he's conducted. and so that is what he is doing. he is going after every possible indication that there is a potential either crime or collusion or obstruction of justice that might be involved. i think looking at that meeting, looking at what went on in that meeting and what the results of that meeting were is part and parcel of his broader investigation. i think he is doing the right thing. >> federal investigators have also seized on donald trump and his associate's financial ties to russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward. president trump had said looking into his finances could be a red line for him. do you think this could cause him to go ahead and fire robert mueller? >> you know, i can't understand
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how the president would assume that somehow his finances could be separated from an investigation into this whole russian issue. the money is part and parcel of that investigation. i think bob mueller is going to follow the money in terms of whether or not it leads to a possibility of collusion as a result of that or possible blackmail. there are all kinds of ways this is tied to the larger investigation. i think the president would have a difficult time justifying that somehow a red line has been crossed. that red line frankly was crossed a long time ago because the reality is that there laare lot of financial issues involved. it is legitimate for bob mueller to look at all of that. >> if the president were to fire robert mueller how would that
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impact the new grand jury? >> i think it would be a very serious step for the president to take not only in terms of possibly raising further issues related to obstruction of justice similar to the firing of fbi director raise those same issues but in addition to that it is clear that the congress has raised a number of stop signs saying don't do this. if necessary if you take this step we will likely empower the special council to proceed under any event. i don't think it would be a very smart move to do this at this point. i think it would be much better to do what the lawyers said today which is to fully cooperate with this investigation. >> special council of the president in the white house said investigators at the same time were told they combed through the list of what it
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described as shell companies and buyers of trump branded real estate properties and scrutinized the roster of tenants at trump tower how could that factor into this investigation? it's just good question that there are a lot of financial ties here that go back to russia in very different ways whether investment in properties, whether it's dealing with people who are associated with mr. trump or mr. trump directly and so the money issues are directly involved in trying to determine whether or not that money was used in order to influence what happened during the election or whether it was used to blackmail people within the administration or whether it was used in some kind of other criminal ways. it is just part and parcel of
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the investigation that needs to be conducted because it's obvious that it has a relationship to the fundamental investigation on the russian issue. >> cnn's sources are also telling us that investigators became suspicious when they turned up what are described as intercepted communications of russians discussing efforts to work with paul manafort, the former trump campaign chairman to coordinate information that could damage hillary clinton. what could this lead to? >> well, again, it's pretty obvious that paul manafort had a number of financial relationships both with the russians and other countries in that area. as a result of that he could very well have been subjected to efforts to try to have him influence what happened during the course of the campaign. that has to be fully investigated. so i think it is proper for the
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special council to look at those kinds of conversations and to determine whether or not they lead to evidence of collusion. >> close relationships with pro russian elements in neighboring ukraine. cnn could not determine if this new review includes donald trump's tax returns. do you think that it is possible that the feds could get access to the president's taxes actually without his knowledge? >> i think there is no question at some point. i don't know when that point arrives but that having convened a grand jury and the grand jury has the power to subpoena and the power to get testimony on a number of issues associated with this investigation that at some point the issue of donald trump's tax reports are going to be looked at one way or the
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other. >> mr. secretary, i want you to stand by. we have more breaking news coming into the situation room. the trump team's reaction to the new grand jury as well as new details of the president's phone conversations with key allies. we'll take a quick break and resume our special coverage right after this. are upgrading their watere filter to zerowater. start with water that has a lot of dissolved solids... pour it through brita's two-stage filter... dissolved solids remain! what if we filter it over and over? oh dear. thank goodness zerowater's five-stage filter
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we are back with leon panetta following lots of breaking news. cnn confirmed that a grand jury empanelled by the special council has issued subpoenas
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related to donald trump jr.'s famous russia meeting last year. mr. secretary, we will talk more about that in just a moment. i want to go to our senior white house correspondent over at the white house. the president's lawyer is now responding to these breaking stories. >> that's right. they would like this wrapped up quickly. i'm not sure they will get their wish. the president was asked about the grand jury being empanelled as he was leaving the white house for a political rally in west virginia. the president's special counsel ty cobb did release a statement to reporters saying they were caught off guard. talking about special council.
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jim comey said three times that the president is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that that has changed. so that is essentially all that they are saying at this point although we should add that the president has called the probe a witch hunt so we can't rule out the possibility that he may comment on this. >> all of this is playing out hours after the washington post published leaked transcripts of the president's phone calls with the leaders of mexico and australia. tell us about that. >> the white house won't confirm or deny the authenticity of allegedly leaked classified documents. clearly the transcripts are a big concern for the president who promised time and again that mexico would pay for a wall, a promise the president appears to be prepared to break. >> who is going to pay for the wall? >> it was a key campaign promise
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pushed time and again. not just a wall on the border with mexico but a wall that mexico that fully fund. >> we will build a big beautiful wall, a big beautiful wall and we will have a door in the wall and people are going to come into our country. what are they going to do? nay a they are going to come in legally. who is going to pay for the wall? who's going to pay for that wall? >> mexico. >> in transcripts of president trump's january phone call with mexican president obtained by the "washington post" it is clear there are cracks in that promise of a wall. in the call mr. trump says if you say mexico will not pay for the wall then i donot want to meet with you anymore. i am willing to say we will work it out. believe it or not this is the least important thing that we are talking about but
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politically this might be the most important. he stood firm saying my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying mexico cannot pay for that wall. the president's response but you can't say that with the press. the press is going to go with that. you cannot say that to the press because i cannot negotiate under those circumstances. the president appears to chalk up his victory to the state's opioid drug crisis. mr. trump tells the mexican president i won new hampshire because new hampshire is a drug infested den. >> his words were disgusting. my message is this. he should stop insulting people and instead work with us to get the resources to our state and states all around the country who are also challenged by this
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epidemic. >> another transcript comes from the call with the australian prime minister that reveals two leaders bickering over the plan to welcome refugees from australia. during the conversation the president says he had a much friendlier call with vladimir putin. it is an embarrassment. i will say it just that way. as far as i'm concerned that is enough. i have had it. i have been making these calls all day and that is the most unpleasant call all day. putin was a pleasant call. this is ridiculous. the president said any reports of a testy call were fake news. the tense exchange made a splash. >> i'm tired and cranky and i feel like i can freak out on somebody. >> maybe you should call australia. >> thank you for accepting our refugees. >> america first. australia sucks. prepare to go to war. >> as we mentioned the president
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is on his way to a political rally in west virginia. a spokesman for the white house was asked about these transcripts that were leaked to the "washington post" earlier today. we can tell you the spokes woman did not want to comment on whether or not these were authentic documents saying they don't comment on the transcripts of the calls although the spokes woman did reiterate that the crisis remains a priority for the president. they appear to be sensitive to the notion that perhaps the president was trying to at least exploit that crisis in order to earn political points up there in new hampshire. >> thanks very much. let's bring back the former defense secretary. former cia director. mr. secretary, during the president's call with the australian prime minister the president also said that the prime minister told the prime minister that quote putin was a pleasant call. this is ridiculous referring to his call with the australian
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leader. what does this tell you about the president's approach to the russian president? >> well, the fundamental problem here is that presidents should say the same thing both to the american people and to world leaders. and that obviously is a reflection that he was saying something very different. and that's a problem. that's a problem in terms of preparation for the president for those calls. it's also clear that from his own comments that he had a much more pleasant conversation with putin than he did with some of our allies which again sends a message that the president was somehow trying to develop a warmer relationship with putin than he was with our allies which is not frankly in the interest of the united states in
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terms of our national security. >> what does it say to you the fact that the transcripts of these phone conversations were leaked to the "washington post"? i'm sure they were classified. how much does the president need to have candid conversations with world leaders without those world leaders being afraid the transcripts would show up in the "washington post" or other publications? this is a serious development. you are a former cia director. >> i'm very concerned about leaks like that that take place because those conversations should be able to occur between the president and those leaders. he ought to be able to have some room to make the kind of comments that he needs to make without it splashing all over the news. i would be very concerned that those kinds of leaks are taking
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place in this administration. it just means that john kelly as chief of staff has his work cut out for him in terms of changing the atmosphere of the white house so that whoever within the white house or administration feels free to leak that kind of information would have at least a little more loyalty to both the president and to the administration. >> i know that a white house chief of staff when you were defense secretary he worked directly with you. i assume you have high regard for him? >> i do. john kelly is a good friend, somebody who worked for me as military aid for almost two years when i was secretary of defense. he is a tough marine, believes in discipline, believes in a strong chain of command, believes in an orderly process, hates chaos. he has his work cut out for him in terms of improving the operation of the white house. i hope the president supports
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him in that effort. >> let's talk about a tweet that the president posted earlier today. i will put it up on the screen. he wrote this. he said our relationship with russia is an at all-time and very dangerous low. you can thank congress, the same people that can't even give us health care. he is blaming congress for this bad relationship right now with russia. he is not blaming russia or putin. what do you think about that? >> well, you know, i think the president has a continuing problem where everything that goes wrong he has to blame on somebody else whether it's the congress or news media or whatever. he always has to blame somebody else. i think it is time for the president to take some responsibility here particularly in dealing with the russians. i think he sent mixed messages in dealing with the russians from the very beginning. his putin call was kind of an
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example of that. there was a lot of concern after we found out what the russians did in the last election that the administration and the president did not condemn strongly enough what the russians were trying to do. i think congress as a result of that felt like the president was simply not leading when it came to confronting the russians and taking the steps that were necessary to say to the russians don't ever do it again. so the reality is here that the president bears some responsibility for what congress ultimately did. he would have been better had the president and the congress worked together on this issue, but the fact that the congress took that step was a reflection that they were very concerned that we were not being strong enough in opposing russia on these issues. >> thanks for joining us. >> good to be with you, wolf. breaking news continues here in the situation room.
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we will get more on the new grand jury that is now part of the special counsel russia investigation with subpoenas issues. plus what cnn learned about the potentially critical development looking at possible trump financial ties to russia. d to jumpstart sales. build attendance for an event. help people find their way. fastsigns designed new directional signage. and got them back on track. get started at fastsigns.com.
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new step in the special counsel's russia investigation. subpoenas were issued related to the meeting at trump tower involving the president's son-in-law, former campaign chairman paul manafort. there is a lot to discuss with our correspondents, analysts and specialists. it's a significant move. what does it say to you the fact that there is now this new grand jury and subpoenas related to that meeting have been issued? >> the grand jury and i will defer to the legal expert on the panel. that is not a surprise given the scope of the investigation. it was just a matter of when not a matter of if. the fact that he sent subpoenas, that the grand jury sent subpoenas for information about the july meeting when the special counsel and his team apparently didn't even know about it according to cnn's reporting until the e-mails
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became public less than a month ago, that seems pretty fast that they got on this issue. we reported it here on cnn that the special counsel has told everybody at the white house don't turn anything out remotely related. the fact that they want everything pretty quickly tells you that this may be the most direct link potential link to the core of what the mission is supposed to be which is was there collusion between the trump orbit and the russian government. >> you were a special prosecutor on water gate task force. how would this grand jury now work? walk us through what apparently is going on related to documents and testimony. >> federal prosecutors use the grand jury to obtain evidence. they can issue subpoenas for documents and they can issue
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subpoenas for producing live testimony before the grand jury under oath which are all transcribed. so that's how an investigation is conducted. you get it all under oath. you get it all transcribed. you get the tudocuments and you review them and start questioning people around the transaction. it is not likely to get the top of the food chain at the beginning of the investigation. you work your way up is the normal way to do it. it is not at all surprising that we have reached a phase involving the grand jury. so there are many, many leads for mr. mueller to follow. and one of those, of course, is the intercepts by u.s. government, nsa in particular of russians talking to russians which will give you a road map of who to talk to.
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teamwork, experience, prosecutors and attorneys. he issued a statement in response to the reports. grand jury matters are typically secret. the white house favors anything that accelerates conclusion of his work fairly. the white house is committed to fully cooperating with mr. mueller. james comey said three times the president is not under investigation and we have no reason to believe that has changed. so what does that response from the white house tell you? >> let's get to the response from his client, president trump. very confident, very straight forward and very willing to appear to want to work and try to get this over with. in contrast you look at how president trump has addressed this. he has threatened that this investigation needs to end. he has called it fake over and over. he called it a witch hunt. quite frankly he has taunted the
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investigators including special counsel mueller to not do the investigation. clearly he is doing the right thing there for his client to at least try to show that they are trying to cooperate. if i was in trouble i would want him representing me and not donald trump. >> i want you to listen to this because as you know cnn is now reporting federal investigators have seized on donald trump and his associate's financial ties to russia as one of the most fertile avenues potentially for their probe. i want you to listen to the president, his exchange with journalists two weeks ago on his thoughts about robert mueller looking into his finances. >> looking at your finances unrelated to russia. >> would that be a breach of what is -- >> i would say yes. by the way, i sell a lot of
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condo units and if somebody from russia buys a condo who knows? i don't make money from russia. i put out a letter from one of the most highly respected law firms. i don't have buildings in russia. they say i own buildings in russia. i don't. they said i made money from russia. it's not my thing. i don't do that. over the years i looked at maybe doing a deal in russia. i never did one. other than the miss universe pageant. >> given the fact now based on our reporting that mueller and his team are looking into trump-related finances, could that be a red line for the president? could that lead to him firing robert mueller? >> i think that is why you see a bipartisan effort to prevent that thing from taking place. what we are seeing is democracy at work. one could say that president
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trump is perhaps envious of vladimir putin because you see even in the tweet today that he sent out he still seems to blame congress and fake media as opposed to russians. if this were happening in russia yes vladimir putin could put an end to this. we see from republicans now in the senate and in congress speaking loudly saying the reason we are here is not because of us or the media but because of vladimir putin. and so for the president to continue down this road he is only digging himself into a deeper hole. what i will say and interesting observation focussed on the deterioration of the u.s./russia relationship we saw statements yesterday saying the president has been humiliating and weak. i think we are seeing vladimir putin throwing president trump a life line. these comments are not coming from vladimir putin. they are coming from a very humiliated prime minister
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medvedev. i think we are seeing president putin giving this president some time but clearly is feeling extra pressure and having to answer to senators at home. >> interesting. in response to the cnn reporting that all of our viewers, the president's personal attorney issued this statement. presidents outside counsel has not received requests for documentation or information about this. any inquiry beyond the mandate specified in the appointment we would object to. what do you make of that response? >> the question is what do you mean by they would object? would they actually move the president to fire robert mueller as has been the fear of many democrats and some republicans or would they be frustrated? a special prosecutor can do whatever a special prosecutor wants to do. that is one of the reasons it is
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a problem because mueller doesn't have to stop with his initial charge. he follows this wherever it leads. if he ends up in a slightly different direction that is completely appropriate based on what a special prosecutor is able to do. i should note that he said the president is not thinking about firing robert mueller. so speculation out there is incorrect. that can change at any moment which is why we are seeing senators on the hill from both parties looking at trying to protect him. >> i just came from the hill and did a joint interview with two republican senators who were consistently against health care and asked about this. both of them especially susan collins on the intelligence committee investigating these issues says the special counsel should take every lead and follow them where they may go especially and including financial issues. and i said the president thinks that is a red line and she laughed. she said the president doesn't get to tell the special counsel
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what the red line is. >> the order under which mueller is appointed specifically allows him to pursue leads that result from his investigation. quite clearly it's not just the financial ties, it is whether other crimes have been committed involving finances. so the possibility of money laundering, foreign corrupt practices act violations and a variety of other regulations associated with money crossing borders would all be within mueller's appropriate discretion. >> a number of people who he has brought on to his team have specialized in their careers in that sort of thing. >> it is interesting that investigators are saying that they became suspicious when the u.s. intelligence community intercepted conversations from russians talking about paul manafort who was the campaign chairman and saying how they
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wanted to work with them to get information that would hurt hillary clinton's campaign and they are pursuing that. >> as we saw with the reporting today, the bottom line is that manafort has a history of working with pro russian parties. this isn't too surprising, i think. i think we are but again this is another thread that we're going to see investigators follow and perhaps we never would have gone down this road had president trump not along the way. >> it will be interesting where in the time line those intercepted conversations involving paul manafort happened, before or after that june meeting, that controversial meeting at trump tower. we don't know. >> here in lies the credibility problem that not only this president but everybody around him and his campaign and even those close to him in this administration now face because time and time again they repeatedly said we haven't met with any russians.
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we didn't know about this person. we didn't know about such meeting. we're finding out more and more details, not because they're being forthcoming but because we're hearing from other people either leaking to the media or what have you. so that makes a much more complicated situation for the president. >> phil mud told us earlier what we know is only a tiny little piece of what the prosecutors, special counsel and the attorneys know. just ahead, a new progress of the u.s.-led war against isis with the new commander in chief, donald trump. xiidra is the first and only eye drop approved for both the signs and symptoms of dry eye. one drop in each eye, twice a day. common side effects include eye irritation, discomfort or blurred vision when applied to the eye, and unusual taste sensation. don't touch container tip to your eye or any surface. remove contacts before using xiidra and wait at least 15 minutes before reinserting.
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tonight a new look inside the accelerating fight against isis from the special envoy to the coalition. michelle is joining us. you spoke with this key figure in the battle against isis. tell our viewers what you learned. >> this administration is showing off some gains in the fight against isis, showing the acceleration of the approach and setting up something of a comparison to the way things were done under obama. yet, they are not ready to state isis is in its final state or th -- the area the terror group
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now controls is quickly shrinking. at its peak in 2015, isis controlled around 35,000 miles of syria and iraq, nearly the size of california. the latest map obtained by cnn shows they have now lost almost 80% of it. and nearly a third of that entire loss has happened in the last six months. >> well, it has accelerated. president trump, a significant decision he made was to delegate really tactical authority to decision makers on the ground. so the decision-making cycle has been rapidly shortened and we have been able to really act to surprise isis. >> special envoy to the coalition against isis, who began his role on the front lines of coordinating the effort under president obama says bold operations now can be put together and executed in a matter of days. a big change from obama's highly
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deliberative approach. >> how much of a difference would you say it's made. >> this operation is moving with effectiveness and efficiency i've never seen. >> is it save to say this is the end stage of isis. >> i would never say end stage. >> why? >> well, again, these terrorist groups can remain in cellular networks, insurgent networks. but the overall campaign plan is to make sure these can be handled by actors on the ground and that for those who made it to syria, as i mentioned, they are not going to make it out. >> international attacks or loan wolf attacks, do you think they're still plan sglg in raqqa, they are planning for their own survival, so they are not planning anything there other than how not to lose. >> the leader thought to be dead. now the assumption is he is
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still alive likely outside raqqa. but they see no connection anymore between him and isis units on the ground. >> it is an adapted enemy. >> how much of isis is left? he says today roughly 12,000 fighters down from a high of around 30,000. the coalition has around 50,000 in syria alone. the flow of foreign fighters in and out is down 90%. >> are they still coming? >> they're really not. and isis's own propaganda, they're telling people not to come to syria. >> where is the place to go now? >> well, libya was the place and now it's really inhospitable to them. some of them are trying to get to the philippines. >> how many fighters do you think have gotten out total and are now back in their home countries or elsewhere. >> 2014 until now it is probably in the low thousands. >> how big a risk are those fighters today? >> significant risk. >> do you think any of them are in the united states. >> return fighters from syria,
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no. >> president obama's former deputy national security advisor, who is also a cnn contributor, responded to this acceleration saying all the gains are the culmination of the comprehensive strategy obama put in place and implemented. they have done virtually nothing different. >> thanks very much. that's it for me. erin burnett outfront starts right now. yacht front next, breaking news special counsel robert mueller using a grand jury. subpoenas now issued for people involved in the donald trump jr. meeting with a russian lawyer. and more breaking news this hour, our exclusive reporting. mueller's investigation now seizing on trump's possible financial ties to russia and trump's national security advisor letting suzanne rice keep her security clearance. is he denying trump? a lot of breaking news this hour. i'm erin burnett. breaking news, grand
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